Rug cleaners and rug owners alike are often unaware that the rug they see on the shelf that says “100% wool” has a large percentage of COTTON.
Turkish weavers weave a wool carpet on the loom shown to the right. The cotton warps, which run the length of the rug on the loom, are visible. Cotton is also used for the wefts between the rows to keep the knots in place.
The warps run from the end of the rug to the other side. The pile of the carpet is created by twisting the wool strands.
Rug weaving structure diagram. The warps are vertical and form the fringe tassels. Wefts are horizontal (“weft to “weight”). The wefts pack the wool knots into place around the warps.
The spools of cotton thread are not endless for weavers. This is especially true of those who weave more oversized rugs. There are only limited lengths. When the strand has been completed, it is tied to another one so the warps can be wrapped around the loom bars.
The weft strands, which run across the rug’s width between the rows and knots of wool, are also woven in this way.
The warps and wefts can sometimes break due to the constant packing in knots with metal tools. Two ends are then tied together to continue weaving.
Every hand-woven rug contains a large number of FOUNDATION KNITS.
The number depends on how many long, strong cotton threads are available, the skill of the weaver, and the frequency with which they break the strands.
These foundation knots are called “RUG FRECKLES,” everyone has them, just like natural freckles. You can have a few or many.
What are white knots
Rug white knots serve as foundation fiber tie-off points. They are either wefts or warps. These are by-products of the weaving process.
The foundation strands will break repeatedly, even if you tie tens or hundreds of thousands of knots.
Every hand-woven rug has these “rug freckles.” Most of the knots will be white. However, if you dye the cotton (wefts can come in different colors) or use wool as warps and wefts on tribal rugs (sometimes), you might see brown or gray knots.
The “RUG FRECKLES,” as they are called, can be treated in three ways by the weavers:
They will push the knot to the back of the rug using a needle.
They will clip the loose strands so that the knots will be shorter than the wool pile (to make them less visible).
After weaving, they will blend the dye into the knots (RUG MAKEUP!!! ).
WHITE KNOTS ARE MORE VISIBLE
White knots can become more noticeable due to age or a good wash.
As the rug ages, the wool pile wears down from foot traffic. The white knots, which used to be shorter in length than the pile of wool, become more visible. It is important to use a pad underneath hand-woven rugs to reduce friction.
Even a relatively recent rug can have white knots visible if it is sheared in a low-nap style. This is the most common reason we are called out to inspect rugs in the field for “damage.” They see white knots on their “new” rug. The longer wool pile would normally hide these knots, but this is not possible due to the short shearing.
Washing rugs can make white cotton knots appear grey and less noticeable. These cotton knots will become pristine white once again with a good bath (especially if a rug specialist is doing the job). They suddenly “appear,” even though you might not have noticed them.
As a rug washer, it’s important to identify these “freckles” in the foundation knots BEFORE washing rather than AFTER.
If it’s done before washing, it educates the rug owner on its characteristics. It can be seen as an excuse when it’s done after washing.
You may not be able to see the “white knots” because they’re not white. They are gray due to the soil. You can find them on THE BACK of the rug. You should be able to find the knots on the front side when you see the larger white knot areas.
What can be done with white knots
Four options exist for treating “rug freckles.”
First, just leave them be. Some rug owners don’t mind having a few freckles on their rugs.
If the rug’s weave is loose, you can push the knots to the back of the rug to make them less visible. Be careful, though. If these knots come undone, it could create a hole that is not repairable.
Third, clip the strands below the wool pile if there are more “white knots” than “white strands.” Again, be careful not to create a hole you can’t fix.
Fourth, you can dye the knots away with ink or textile dye. It is only cosmetic but does not pose any risk to the structure or integrity of the rug. This is the best option for treating a few rug freckles.